The construction site of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant on April 7, 2022 in Bridgwater, UK (POOL / Finnbarr Webster)
Delays and additional costs: the site of the EPR nuclear power plant built by EDF at Hinkley Point in England is experiencing a new slippage, the impact of which the British government however minimized for the United Kingdom on Friday.
The start-up of the first reactor is now planned “in June 2027”, revealed the French energy company overnight from Thursday to Friday.
The plant, under construction since 2016 in Sommerset (south-west England), was initially scheduled to start at the end of 2025, a schedule already postponed last year to June 2026.
For the two units, the risk of delay is now “evaluated at 15 months”, provided that there is no new pandemic or additional effect of the war in Ukraine, according to EDF which figures the new additional cost at at least 3 billion pounds (approximately EUR 3.5 billion).
The plant is expected to cost “between 25 and 26 billion pounds”, against 18 billion expected in 2016 when the green light from London.
The British government said on Friday that it wanted to continue to “work closely with EDF to finalize Hinkley Point C”, stressing that the additional cost would not fall on the British.
The delay is attributed by EDF to the account of the pandemic which has hampered the possibilities of working, and to an additional volume of studies and civil engineering works.
The controversial project from the start is contested by French unions for its cost.
“If the (British) government had invested as much in offshore wind as in Hinkley C, we would have had three times the energy in a fraction of the time,” environmental NGO Greenpeace lambasted on Friday, saying the delay in this new source of electricity will ultimately fall indirectly on the British taxpayer.
– Accumulated setbacks –
The EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) is a model of nuclear reactor that is more powerful and designed to be safer than previous generations. Three are complete, in Finland and China, and three are under construction, one in France and two at Hinkley Point.
Map of the world locating the different EPRs in service or under construction (AFP / )
But the Finnish reactor (Olkiluoto-3) started in March 12 years late, and of the two Chinese EPRs commissioned in 2018 and 2019, one has been shut down since July 2021 for technical problems.
As for the French reactor, in Flamanville, the cumulative delays reach 11 years for a fuel loading now planned for the 2nd quarter of 2023, and a cost of 12.7 billion euros, four times more than announced in 2006.
EDF accumulates bad news this year. The group had to be recapitalized in April, and its profit will plummet in large part because the French state has asked it to sell more electricity at low prices.
The group must also solve a pipe corrosion problem. In total, more than half of the reactors in France are now shut down for maintenance.
Hinkley Point C is the only nuclear power station under construction in the UK. EDF is the contracting authority and its Chinese partner CGN owns a third of the project.
It adjoins the Hinkley Point B power station, commissioned in 1976 and which EDF has planned to shut down by July – even if London plans to extend it, according to The Guardian, so as not to reduce its low-carbon energy production to time of climate emergency and war in Ukraine.
A British parliamentary report also denounces on Friday the planned closure by 2028 of seven nuclear power plants which were sold in 2009 to EDF, estimating that it will result in “a significant reduction in energy production in the United Kingdom “.
According to this report, the contract for the sale of the power stations to EDF poses a “disproportionate risk” to the British taxpayer for the future dismantling of these power stations, which should cost another billions of public funds, after already 10.7 billion books in two years.
The ambition across the Channel is to maintain the nuclear share of the energy mix at 20% in order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 – while there are currently 15 reactors in the United Kingdom on 8 sites. London wants to produce 95% low-carbon electricity by 2030.
The construction site of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant on April 21, 2022 in Bridgwater, UK (AFP / Justin TALLIS)
In France, the EPR remains at the heart of the energy and climate strategy. President Emmanuel Macron has announced his intention to relaunch a nuclear program with six new generation EPR2 reactors.
The first commissioning is not expected before 2035 or 2037, at a massive cost estimated at more than 50 billion euros for six reactors.
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